High Court denies inquiry into YOI death

A High Court judge has dismissed a mother’s request for a public inquiry into the death of her 16-year-old son at a young offender institution in March 2002.

Although Mr Justice Bennett described the incarceration of vulnerable children in young offender institutions rather than secure children’s homes as “a matter of huge concern”, he said the coroner’s inquest into the death of Joseph Scholes had fully complied with the state’s obligation to inquire into deaths in custody.

Rejecting claims that a public inquiry was necessary under human rights laws, the judge said the real issue under scrutiny was the suitability of sending Joseph to a YOI, and this had been examined in great detail at the inquest.

However, speaking at court on Yvonne Scholes’ behalf, Tim Owen QC said that the inquest process had left many questions unanswered. The coroner in Joseph’s case had written to the home secretary recommending a public inquiry, but the idea had been refused. The call has since been supported by more than 100 MPs and members of the House of Lords.

Joseph committed suicide by hanging himself only nine days into a two-year sentence at Stoke Heath YOI in March 2002. He had been moved from a high- to low-surveillance cell despite a history of self-harm.

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